by D. R. Johnson, Copyright 2007 Bloggers Delight Vol 1
“In other news, the President has announced that there will soon be a handing over of power, and a scaling back of troop strength in the recently established “New Democratic Iraq.” Opponents of his plan have made it clear that to leave now will further jeopardize American interests in the region, and that staying the course is the only option….” announced the news correspondent in a carefully measured pentameter that pecked at the edge of Abe Deaks’ patience.
“Hazel, turn that damn T.V. off! You know I can’t hardly stand to listen to it anymore” he grumbled.
“Sorry,” she sighed. “It’s just, you know, Jarl is supposed to be here tomorrow, and… this wouldn’t be the first time he’s told us he’d be coming home, and then have his release date pushed back” lamented Hazel with obvious frustration and concern.
“Will you relax with all that? The boy was there for a good reason. He’s protectin’ his country, our country from those terrorists” retorted Abe.
“Yeah, I know Abe, but I just wonder if it’s worth it.. I mean, so much killing… and for what? Oil?”
“We’ve been over this so many times woman! It’s not about oil, it’s about keepin’ us safe from gettin’ blown up. You saw those towers fall same as me.. it’s our way of life that’s under attack, and they’re not goin’ to stop until we’re all dead. Meanin’ it’s us, or them. Our boy has been over there riskin’ his neck to make sure we are OK back here! At least respect that enough to stop complainin’ about it for once.”
Abe was right about one thing, thought Hazel, the two of them had been through this same conversation many times over. In fact, it seemed to her that Abe never actually listened to anything she said to him about the war. At times his selected deafness was unbearable, but that was just Abe. When he made up his mind on a thing, there was no changing it, and she had learned to live with this aspect of his personality long ago. Despite her quiet resignation to bite her tongue, there was a part of her that could not help but blame Abe for their son’s enlistment. Maybe if he hadn’t spent so much time filling the boy’s ears with star spangled histrionics, maybe if he hadn’t spent so much time spouting off about the Holy War… just maybe her boy would have left well enough alone instead of rushing head long into that damnable war.
* * *
The Deaks lived in a small town in Southern Iowa, typical in many ways of most small American towns, having sprung up around farming, and eventually losing out to the push for modernization. There existed a strange dichotomy between old and new as large parcels of land were being sold off to accommodate the ever growing urban sprawl. The wealthy clamored to leave the big cities, and with them they brought their money, their neighborhoods, and their culture. Although the Five and Dime still stood on Main street, and farmers still gathered at the Plow & Feed to spend their Saturday afternoons chewing the fat, life had changed dramatically for their small town. Many businesses found it impossible to compete with Shop Rite’s prices, and McDonald’s speed, and in one generations time they had seen the landscape of their community drastically altered. While some folks frowned upon this strange marriage of modern money versus meager means, others viewed it as a blessing. To the newer residents of the little town, life represented an escape from the hustle & bustle of a nine to five, a reprieve from the smog, a chance to pretend all was right in the world. Yet for the younger generation, growing up here seemed devoid of potential with very few options. Sure there were plenty of opportunities to be had in town if you didn’t mind stocking shelves or flipping burgers, but aside from that the choice was farm, or find work elsewhere.
Jarl Deaks was among those who had grown up wanting to see the world beyond small town life, and visit those far off places he’d seen on television. He wanted to attend college, but his parents had made it clear that there was absolutely no way they could afford to pay for his schooling, and that he’d be much better off if he would set his goals to something more attainable, like helping out on the farm. However, this request would prove next to impossible for the boy. Jarl was a dreamer, and not a day passed by in which his father hadn’t felt it necessary to chide him with timeworn phrases like ‘take your head out of the clouds,’ ‘think before you act,’ and ‘be mindful of your responsibilities.’ Whether or not this had any influence over the boy’s state of mind, one thing was for certain, he could not stop dreaming about his future elsewhere anymore than he could force himself to want to follow in his father‘s footsteps and carry on the family farm. Life for Jarl was not about tractors, or praying that the corn would be knee high by July. For Jarl there was more to life than could be had in a small rural town, and this presented itself as quite a dilemma for the lad, because it seemed to him that there was no way out.
Then along came that tragic fate filled day that no one living in America would ever be able to erase from their memory. The nation stood still, as people everywhere gathered around their radios and television sets staring in shock as hijacked airliners rained down, crashing one after the other into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and then into the Pentagon. They stood gaping in horror as the people who found themselves stranded in the upper levels of the towers hurled themselves out of windows to avoid being burned alive. As the towers collapsed, Americans sat and watched New York City as it was enveloped in a heavy blanket of ash and the fires spread. Buildings collapsed one into another like dominos, throwing the metropolis into a panic with no end to the chaos in sight . Days later, Americans continued to watch as the rescue workers with their cranes and dump trucks cleared away millions of tons of debris. They grimaced, sick to their stomachs whenever a firefighter removed a wristwatch, or someone’s wallet from beneath the piles of rubble and debris. They waited anxiously to hear each updated death toll, magnifying every report in their own minds a hundred fold. The U.S. government was quick to place blame. ‘We believe those responsible for the attacks on September the eleventh are members of an Islamic terrorist organization known as Al-Qaeda’ was the official line that played non-stop over the cable news circuit. In the midst of elevated “terrorist threat levels” Americans rushed out and bought guns in record number, and the red white and blue could be seen flying at nearly every house, on every street in America.
It was shortly after that gruesome chain of events, that the recruiters began appearing at every small town high school around the country, hoping to take advantage of a reinvigorated sense of national unity and patriotism. They preyed upon young men like Jarl, imploring them to ‘serve their country’ and to ‘be all that they could be.’ The National Guard recruiters made it sound like the American way of life was under attack, and able bodied young people were needed to protect her stateside, while the “active” branches of the military sped to defend her in the Middle East. What they failed to mention was that for the first time in American history, reservists and guardsmen would be called up to active duty on a massive scale, to mobilize and deploy indefinitely overseas. And so it was, amidst his mother’s constant pleas, and his father’s daily diatribes on Islam’s hatred of all things American, Jarl signed on the dotted line, offering up four years of his young life in service of his country.